The role of leader for the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 6 is up for grabs. Either the $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds next Saturday or the $150,000 San Antonio Handicap next Sunday should help fill that role.
In the final weeks of January, both the Strub and San Antonio lost their expected favorite.
Papa Clem, who won the San Fernando Stakes for 4-year-olds earlier this month, was retired to stud with an ankle injury. He would have been favored in the Strub. Gio Ponti, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Classic here in November, was sent to Florida for an expected start at Tampa Bay Downs in February. He would have been a standout in the San Antonio Handicap.
Without Papa Clem, the role of Strub favorite falls to Misremembered, the winner of the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park last July and the runner-up in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes here on Dec. 26. Trainer Bob Baffert considers him a contender for the Big Cap.
The other probables for the Strub Stakes are Diferentkindagreat, Eagle Poise, Gallant Son, Massone, Mr. Hot Stuff, Rendezvous, Smart Bid, Square Eddie, and Viscount.
The San Antonio has a list of familiar names among its candidates, plus two former English runners who will make their U.S. debut in the Grade 2 stakes. The familiar names are led by Richard's Kid, the winner of the Pacific Classic last summer who is being pointed for the Dubai World Cup on March 27, and Furthest Land, who won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile here in November. Others include Dakota Phone, Marsh Side, Mast Track, and Nownownow.
Marsh Side was 17th in the Japan Cup in his last start on Nov. 29, and would be making his first start on a synthetic track since a fourth in the Cougar II Handicap at Del Mar last summer. Trainer Neil Drysdale said the Big Cap is a possibility. "Let's see how he runs on this" surface, he said.
The English shippers are Giganticus and Philatelist. Giganticus is part of trainer Simon Callaghan's stable which arrived from England in December.
Giganticus, 7, won the 29-runner Buckingham Palace Stakes over seven furlongs on turf at Royal Ascot last June, but is winless in his last four starts. Giganticus has had three half-mile workouts at Santa Anita this month.
Philatelist won an allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on a Polytrack surface at Wolverhampton, England, on Jan. 10 in his final start for trainer Michael Jarvis. Philatelist was scheduled to arrive in the United States on Sunday and clear quarantine on Tuesday when he will join trainer Humberto Ascanio's stable, Ascanio said on Friday. Philatelist has raced primarily on synthetic tracks in England and France in the last two years.
Eventually, they all may face Zenyatta, the undefeated winner of the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic here in November. She is expected to run in major stakes against males later this year, but not at the Santa Anita meeting.
Well Armed targets summer return
Harty said that Well Armed, the winner of the Dubai World Cup last March, remains at owner Bill Casner's farm in Texas and will be sent to California in February. Well Armed has not started since undergoing ankle surgery last summer.
Well Armed has battled an illness in recent weeks, Harty said. The gelding is expected to return to racing by the summer.